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Authors: Scott O'Dell

Sarah Bishop

BOOK: Sarah Bishop
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Sarah Bishop
Scott O'Dell

Houghton Mifflin Company Boston
1980

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

O'Dell, Scott, 19-
Sarah Bishop.

SUMMARY: Left alone after the deaths of her
father and brother who take opposite sides in the
War for Independence, and fleeing from the British
who seek to arrest her, Sarah Bishop struggles to
shape a new life for herself in the wilderness.

[1. United States—History—Revolution, 1775–
1783—Fiction. 2. American loyalists—Fiction.
3. Survival—Fiction] I. Title.
PZ7.0237Sar [Fic] 79-28394
ISBN 0-395-29185-2

Copyright © 1980 by Scott O'Dell
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and
recording, or by any information storage or retrieval
system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Printed in the United States of America.

V 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

T
O
E
LIZABETH

Author's Foreword

T
HIS STORY IS
based upon the life of Sarah Bishop. Sarah was born in Midhurst, West Sussex, England. She came to the colonies shortly before the American Revolution and with her family settled on Long Island. After the battle for Brooklyn Heights and while New York City was still burning, she fled into the wilderness of northern Westchester County. There she lived on Long Pond, known to the Indians as Waccabuc.

Captain Cunningham, British Provost, who "starved the living and fed the dead" and who played an important part in Sarah's life, was tried in England after the war on charges of forgery, convicted, and sent to the gallows.

1

S
OMEONE WAS SHOOTING
from far away, somewhere around Purdy's mill.

You would hear a whanging sound, then the bullets going overhead close. I never saw any of them, but they sounded big and mean. Father said the bullets were made in England. How he could tell they were made in England, I didn't ask. I never asked questions concerning something that he was sure about. Besides, I was too scared to do much talking.

We were standing in our meadow toward dark. The
meadow was planted to clover and wandered along on both sides of a clear running brook that wound down through an opening in the hills and into Wallabout Bay. There was a breeze blowing, and it made the clover look like waves on blue water.

"One man's doing the shooting," my father said. "It's Quarme. Jim Quarme. He's Purdy's new millhand. He's crazy about muskets. He got one of them yesterday. I was down at the tavern when the post came. It was in a muslin bag, tied up fancy. He opened it right before all of us, so everybody could see. In the bag was a brand-new firelock and a big box of bullets marked Salwich, England. That's how I know where the bullets come from."

"Why is Quarme shooting at us?" I asked.

"He's not shooting at us," my father said. "He's shooting in our direction. Just to remind us."

"Of what?"

"That he owns a new firelock. That he's for the revolution. That he's hot to run King George and all his men clean out of the country. And that he knows we are against the revolution and for King George."

Another bullet went over, no closer than the others, but it seemed closer. I thought it would be a good idea if we got ourselves in the house until Quarme was through shooting, but my father didn't move. He was a tall man with a gaunt face and a long, stubborn chin, which he rubbed when he was thinking hard.

He stood there rubbing his chin until the shooting stopped. Then he went off to the house without saying a word. I gathered up the clover I had cut and fed the two cows and milked one of them, Talitha. The other cow, Tabitha, my brother would milk when he got home from his work at the Lion and Lamb. They were beautiful Gloucesters, mahogany-colored with white blazes.

The last of the sun was shining level, yellow as butter, over the meadow, over the row of apple trees that someone had planted a long time ago. The trees, mostly Roxbury Russets, were heavy with fruit. Father counted on taking all of it to market, except for a few barrels to store for winter, and those I would make butter from. I wasn't much of a pie-maker nor much of a sauce-maker, either. My mother had taught me something about cooking long before she died, but I still wasn't very good at it, if you asked my brother, Chad.

The day was steaming hot, even for August; even the breeze from the sea was hot. So I started the fire in the firebox outside, where it was cooler than inside the house, and mixed up some cakes, using the fish Chad had caught, red-eared corn we had raised, and the fresh milk.

Father came in when he couldn't see to work any longer: Chad was late from the tavern.

Father was worried. "He's been coming late the last week."

"The tavern is full, Chad says, running over with travelers from everywhere."

"Mostly from Boston," Father said. "They ran Admiral Howe out of the city, clean up to Halifax, but some of the wiser ones figure that he'll return one of these days soon, this time with the whole British navy in back of him, and make mincemeat out of all the so-called patriots."

Father was bitter about the rebellion. He talked a lot about it and brooded over it when he wasn't talking. We had a drawing of King George with his crown on and a long jeweled robe. It hung on the wall above my father's bed, and every morning and evening he would stand up stiff in front of the picture and raise his hand and salute like a soldier, although he had never been one in his life nor ever planned to be.

That was up to three weeks ago, before the picture disappeared. Father blamed Chad for taking it down. When Chad said he hadn't and swore on the Bible, Father still didn't believe him. They didn't speak to each other for a whole day. Then my brother finally admitted that he had put the picture of King George in the fire.

"I've been learning things up at the tavern," Chad said. "For one thing, it's a good idea to keep your mouth shut about the feelings you have."

"A man should do what he wants in his own home," Father said. "Hang a picture of the devil on the wall, if he wants to."

"If one of the patriots happened to walk in here and see a picture of King George sitting up there on the wall,
it would be all over the countryside by next day noon."

"Also a man should stand up for what he thinks, not mince around."

"That's what old man Somers over in Hempstead tried to do. He called John Adams a windbag. The patriot boys heard about it and went over and burned his pigsty. They told him that unless he minded his ways, they'd come back and burn his barn."

Father gave Chad a sharp look. "You're not getting scared? You're not changing over, are you? Fm not going to wake up one morning to find you've joined the Skinners."

The Skinners were gangs of young men who went around burning people's property and wanted to hang King George from the nearest tree. I knew that Chad had several friends who belonged to the Skinners. Likewise, that he was not so strong against the rebellion as Father was. In fact, he had told me once that he didn't believe in being taxed by a king who lived thousands of miles away.

I put the fishcakes on the trestle with a bowl of tomato sauce and lit the lamp.

Father sat down and said grace. Then he said to Chad, "You're sure you are just being cautious, not changing your mind about the war?"

Chad put a whole fishcake in his mouth and was silent. The lamplight shone on his face, high cheekboned like mine, with a few freckles on both sides of his nose. I had
the freckles, too, but they looked better on Chad than they did on me, Father said, and I think he was right. People always took us for brother and sister, though Chad's hair was black and mine was blond.

"No, just being sensible," Chad said, talking around the fishcake. "I'm trying to keep out of trouble with the Skinners and the rest of the patriots."

It was quiet for a while. Then from the direction of Purdy's mill came a bang, and after a moment a whistling sound, like a long sigh, passed over the house.

Chad got up and turned out the lamp and we sat in the dark.

2

R
AIN CAME PELTING
down for two whole days on a wild west wind, but early the third morning the sky began to clear. I harnessed the bay mare to the carryall and started off for Purdy's mill to buy cornmeal and tell Mr. Purdy that we couldn't pay for it until harvest time.

Mud was fetlock-deep and the stream ran from bank to bank, so I didn't get there for almost half an hour. Mr. Purdy had seen me on the way, for he was waiting
when I drove up to the hitching rack. I threw him the reins and he slipped them over the bar and gave them a cinch.

"When you were here last time," he said, "the mare wasn't hitched up right. Backed away, she did; ran over two whole sacks of corn. Scattered them from here to kingdom come."

Mr. Purdy had a round, pink face and he was shaped like a barrel, large in the middle and small at the top and bottom. His remembering about the spilled corn wasn't a good start for what I had to ask, so I waited until I was inside before I spoke a word.

Mr. Purdy wore a leather apron that covered most of his front and was caked with old flour, though his hands were clean and pink. He had always been friendly with me, until lately. Since early in the summer, when people began to talk about war with England and got angry with each other, he'd changed.

Mr. Purdy smiled and showed his teeth, which were worn down at the edges. "What can I do for you, Mistress Sarah?" Before I could answer he said, "I hope you're not here to ask for credit. It's twice in the last month you've been around begging."

"I'm not here to beg."

Mr. Purdy glanced at the handkerchief I held wadded up in my hand. "Maybe you have something there. A shilling or two, maybe a pound note. Let's see."

"Nothing," I answered, unfolding my empty handkerchief and clenching it up in a ball again. "But we'll pay you when our corn is ready. We have a good crop, better than last year. There are three or four ears on every stalk and eleven acres planted."

Mr. Purdy pulled on a lever, and the two flat stones stopped moving with a mournful sigh. He sidled up to the corn bin and took up a scoop.

"This should last until harvest time," he said, scooping grist into a muslin sack that had a big "P" printed on it. The sack was small, and when it was only half-full he pulled the top together and tied it up with twine. "This should do you."

"There are three of us," I said. "It won't last long."

"Three now," Mr. Purdy said, "but maybe less before long."

I was surprised. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that members of your family..." He paused to wipe dust from his eyes. "Your father, James Bishop, talks too much."

"I don't understand."

"He's a Tory, is what I mean, and he talks Tory. He even has a picture of King George on his wall."

"It's not there now."

"No? That's mighty good to hear," Mr. Purdy said. "But it was there for a long time. One of the patriots has seen it. Jarvis, the sweep, who cleaned your chimney."

He glanced toward the loft, where someone was walking around softly.

"Look here." He put a fatherly hand on my shoulder. "I like you, Sarah. I even like your father, stiff-necked though he is. But these are dangerous times. I and hundreds of others like me are staking our fortunes on the outcome of a war that has been forced upon us. We can't tolerate people having pictures of the King in their houses."

"I've told you about the picture."

"I know, I know. But your father talks. He got up in the meeting only last week and gave a speech on how we should put down our weapons. How we should try to reason with the British."

I was about to answer him when a streak of light came through a window high up near the roof. It blinded me for a moment; then I saw a man peering down from the loft. He had a sack of meal in his arms.

"You got mice," he yelled to Mr. Purdy.

The man was younger than he sounded at first, but he walked with a limp when he came down and set the sack at Mr. Purdy's feet.

"Ate half of it," he said, pointing to a mouse hole.

From the way he spoke I took him to be Quarme, the new millhand, the one who was crazy about guns. He turned his head and looked at me.

"Vermin's everywhere these days," he said.

"That's so," Purdy said.

Quarme was thin-bodied with a scrawny neck that ended in a small, bony head. He glanced sidewise, taking
me in. His eyes were deep-set and sort of wild.

The sunlight moved across the floor as he studied me with his wary eyes. It shone on the brass-ringed barrel of a new flintlock that stood behind him. I had a notion to ask him if that was the gun he had used to fire bullets over our house. But I thought better of it and picked up the meal and carried it to the wagon. Mr. Purdy took it from me and hefted it. He groaned as he laid it down on the bed.

"The sack's not that full," I said, thinking he wanted me to believe that it was. "Not full enough to make a man groan; not a strong man like you, Mr. Purdy."

He sighed and wiped his forehead. "I've been feeling weak of late. Been up the last three nights with the machinery."

"Terrible," said Quarme, following us out.

"Three nights ago," Mr. Purdy continued, "right on the stroke of twelve, the machinery stopped. Went clank, clank, and quit. I took everything apart, oiled it up good, and put it back. But the same thing happened the next night. Took it all apart and put it back. Last night it happened again, the third midnight in a row."

"My father can fix whatever's wrong," I said, and regretted it as soon as I spoke the words, for Mr. Purdy's face clouded over.

"It's not the machinery that needs fixing. There's something going on that's unnatural." The miller paused. "I forgot to tell you. Last night I didn't do a thing when
it stopped. At dawn, without me ever touching it once, she started up again."

"Strange," said Quarme.

BOOK: Sarah Bishop
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